ABOUT the first of November, in the year 1620, a little vessel might have been seen making its way towards the coast of Massachusetts. It was a frail craft, laden with anxious-looking men and women. This band of adventurers were pilgrims, who, because they could not enjoy liberty of conscience in their own country, had most unwillingly and at great sacrifice, left it, that they might find a place where they could worship God according to their own views of duty, without the opposition of the civil power.

On November 9, the cheering cry was heard, "Land! Land ahead!" It proved to be Cape Cod.

As it was their design to commence their settlement in the vicinity of the Hudson River, they steered their course in a southerly direction to enter the mouth of that noble stream. They soon, however, found themselves amid shoals and breakers. Finding they could not proceed, they retraced their course, and the next day arrived at the Cape Cod harbor.

These pilgrims were men of prayer. In everything they were accustomed to seek direction from their heavenly Father, and to implore his blessing. Accordingly, on Saturday, November 11, religious services were held on board the Mayflower.

"They fell on their knees, rendered thanks to God for his kind protection of them during their dangerous voyage across the ocean, and implored his favor to rest upon them amid the toils, trials, and temptations upon which they were now to enter."

A document was then drawn up and signed by all the men, in which they solemnly, in the presence of God and of one another, agreed to combine themselves into a body politic for the formation of a government of "equal laws" for the "general good." Their next step was the election of a governor for the year. The choice fell upon John Carver, who is described as "a pious and well-approved gentleman."

Cold weather was fast approaching, and a place for landing was yet to be settled upon. Accordingly, a company of sixteen men, well armed, and headed by their valiant captain, Miles Standish, went ashore on an exploring expedition, and to obtain fuel and food, if possible, as their stock on board was nearly exhausted. They found plenty of wood, and quite a quantity of corn buried in mounds, which they supposed had been placed there by the Indians. They saw a few red men, who fled as soon as they saw the pale faces.

The explorers saw at this visit no other signs of inhabitants, though they spent some time in searching for them.

_ After two days they returned to the ship, with supplies of wood, corn, and wild fowl. We may well suppose that the sight of these first fruits of the land of promise brought joy to all hearts.

In a few days another exploring party started out along the shore, this time in the frail shallop, which they had brought over stored between decks.

There were thirty-four of this party, and a severe time they had of it. The wind blew strong, and the spray, as it dashed upon them, was turned to ice. Some of them became chilled, and took such severe colds as resulted in death. A portion of them landed, but soon became "tired with marching up and down the steep hills and deep valleys, which lay half a foot thick with snow." During this visit they found more corn buried and a bag of beans; they also came upon two deserted wigwams, but saw no human beings.

They afterward learned that the deserted condition of the country was on account of a destructive plague, which had lately swept oft great numbers of the Indians on the coast. After rambling about in various directions, without any important result, the exploring party returned to the vessel. During their absence a child had been born on board the Mayflower, who was named Peregrine White. This was the first English child born in New England.

On the sixth of December a third party went forth to make further discoveries. Soon after landing, they encountered a party of Indians, with whom they had a little skirmish. They then returned to their shallop, and being overtaken by a bad storm, went ashore on a little island near the entrance of Plymouth Harbor, where they spent the night and next day, under the peltings of a winter storm. This was afterward called Clark's Island, in honor of the mate of the Mayflower, who is said to have been the first who stepped upon it.

The next day, December 21, 1620, having examined the harbor and found it a convenient place for ships to anchor, they went onto the mainland. Deeming it a suitable place, they concluded to make their settlement here. And this was "The Landing of the Pilgrim Fathers," about, which so much has been said and written. The men at once set about building rude houses, while the women and children remained in the ship, which was anchored about a mile and a half from the shore. Indians were occasionally seen, but they did not come within speaking distance.

The number who landed from the Mayflower was just one hundred souls. Scarcity of food, with exposure to cold and wet, brought on disease; and by spring one-half their number were swept away by death! Among those who died was their good governor, John Carver. William Bradford was appointed to take his place. The name of Plymouth was given to the new colony, out of respect to the people of Plymouth, in England, where the pilgrims were treated with great kindness when they put back on account of the leaking of their vessel.

In March, 1621, the settlement was surprised by the visit of an Indian, who, to their astonishment and joy, spoke to them in broken English, and bade them "Welcome." Through him they learned of the plague, which had swept over the country where they were, and many other things of interest. From this time the visits of the Indians were quite frequent, and not always of so pleasant a character as this first one. The colonists finally thought it wise to build a log fort on the hill, in which they placed their two cannon and stored their ammunition. This helped to intimidate the Indians, some of whom were getting bold and troublesome. This rude fort served also as a meeting-house, or place of worship, whither the Pilgrims went with their weapons on. The picture on the first page gives a good view of this church in the wilderness, and the Pilgrims wending their way to the place of prayer, with their guns in hand.

During the first summer of their settlement, the Pilgrims were comfortably provided for. The weather was mild, their corn was productive; fish were obtained in considerable quantities; and later in the season wild ducks and venison were plenty.

As the cold weather came on, they repaired their houses, so as to be the better ready for the approaching winter. When it commenced, they were in health, and had "all things in plenty." After the harvests were gathered in, Governor Bradford deemed it a fit and proper thing that, in imitation of the Hebrew feast of tabernacles, or of ingathering, they should set apart a day of thanksgiving to the Almighty God who had preserved them from so many dangers, and given them a bountiful harvest in this new land. A few days previous, he sent four men out fowling, that they "might after a more special manner rejoice together."  So after the thanksgiving service in their rude log church, they together partook of the bounties of the year, not riotously, but with thankfulness of heart and lips.

And so came about the custom, which gives us "Thanksgiving Day" every autumn. The President has appointed the 29th of November as the day, which we shall observe this year. But how few of those who shall gather in the happy homes of our broad land, will thank God as fervently for their plenty, as did our Fathers for the bare necessities of life!




E. B. G.